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Bruce McCarthy is Founder and Chief Product Person at UpUp Labs, where he and his team are at work on Reqqs - the smart roadmap tool for product people.

Entries in Tools (2)

Wednesday
May092012

Superpowers for Product People

Agreeing on Priorities Is Hard

I've been talking to product managers, project managers, business analysts, development managers and other product people about the challenges they face in their jobs. What I hear most is that the number-one issue is how difficult it is to set priorities for their engineering teams on what to build first. This is no surprise to me as a long-time product manager. Roadmapping is the skill I've spent the most effort honing over time.

Talking to these folks, I've also learned that the number-one problem with this number-one issue is not making a reasonable decision to start with, but making it stick. The hard part, it turns out, is getting buy-in on those priorities from all of the stakeholders around the company and among key customers and partners.

Spreadsheet Models Can Be Some Help

Through nearly 20 years of experience in developing products, I've devised a methodology that allows a product person to socialize a set of priorities, get buy-in on them and publish a roadmap that sticks. It derives clear and objective criteria from company and project goals. The approach results in a lot less arguing and a lot more building of results-driving products. 

I've used spreadsheets for this, as many experienced product people have, continuously evolving my template to take into account multiple business benefits and calculating an ROI score based on level of effort. But the spreadsheet itself is a separate document from requirements or stories or roadmaps, and it quickly gets out of date or becomes a paperwork burden.

It can also be hard to share and even harder to consume. A detailed spreadsheet is good for developing a roadmap but it's not good for communicating one. I've written before that what I think is really needed is a new product -- a simple, inexpensive roadmap tool. I'm now starting to build such a tool. I call it Reqqs.

What If You Could Wear Superman's Cape?

The typical product manager, program manager, tech lead or business analyst is a really extraordinary person, a kind of tech superhero. They keep a million balls in the air at the same time, get input from virtually everyone, speak fluent CFOish, Enginese, Supportic and Salesish, and generally do an amazing job of giving thoughtful direction to their development teams. I haven't met a single one, though, that didn't say they couldn't use some help with all of that.

So Reqqs is focused on unlocking the key superpower within product people -- namely, prioritizing and getting buy-in on product development roadmaps. It's designed to do that by providing a transparent and objective scorecard that's tied to your goals and that's dead-easy to use and to socialize.

Reqqs is a webapp that makes the process of getting to consensus on priorities easier than it's ever been. Way easier than Excel, or Sharepoint, or Google docs, or any of the heavyweight enterprise requirements management tools. And way easier than JIRA or any of the other engineering workflow tools as well.

A Tool By and For Product People

Product people are a unique breed that lives between the development team and the rest of the world. We're not really developers, not really marketers, not really salespeople, not really in finance. Or maybe we're on all of those teams, but they all have their own tools and none of them are really built for us. 

Reqqs is conceived and designed by product people for product people, designed to help us communicate better with all of those departments, with executives in general, with partners and customers -- with all of our stakeholders.

Up and Up

To bring Reqqs to market, I've founded a company focused on unlocking the hidden superpowers in all product people. It's called UpUp Labs after a certain superhero's well-known catchphrase. We're a small team, and we intend to stay that way -- but we have decades of product development experience to help guide the design, development, marketing and support of Reqqs.

We're at work building and refining Reqqs now. If there is one thing we've learned over time, though, it's that we can't do this alone. What we most need is your help to make sure it meets your needs as a product person.

You Can Be Part of This

I expect Reqqs to make money. But to be honest, what I most want is for product people all over the world to get a boost from it, for it to help them be more effective at this challenging job. Let's do this together. Help me make Reqqs into the tool we've all wished for but could never find.

Drop by www.reqqs.com, check out the proposed features and mockups for release 1, sign up to be notified when Reqqs is available if you like, and leave your comments, thoughts and ideas on what you need Reqqs to do for you. In return, I promise to listen.

In the meantime, use your superpowers for good!

Saturday
Aug202011

A Simple Inexpensive Roadmap Tool?

I've been really unimpressed with the options for roadmapping, requirements management and prioritization tools. Well, I am impressed by the number of them, but daunted by their complexity and cost. A little googling turned up more than 20 such tools, most with complex, dated interfaces and many with prices I couldn't justify.

Accompa's own website says:

"Studies by organizations such as Forrester Research show that there is a high incidence of "shelfware" among companies which purchased requirements management software. The primary reason for this problem? Their users found the software too hard to learn and use."

And yet Accompa's tool still looks like a challenge to get started with to me (and it's a minimum of $200/mo).

So what's a product manager to do? Gather requirements, of course! I'd like to get your input on what a simple, inexpensive roadmapping tool would need to do. For clarity, I define roadmapping as requirements gathering, prioritization and communication.

If you'd like to weigh in in what such a tool would need to do for you in your job, enter your ideas here (or vote for ideas already there). You can see what others are voting for and I will publish the overall results in a few weeks.